• NDMA sets up Vaccine Procurement Cell
• Inoculation of people over 18 years begins from Thursday
• Maximum people to be vaccinated before Eidul Azha
ISLAMABAD: As the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) opened vaccination for people over 18 years of age from Thursday, the government on Monday approved a $130 million grant (about Rs20 billion) to purchase 10m doses of Covid-19 vaccine before June 30.
The estimated amount required to inoculate the target population of 72m against coronavirus is $1.5bn.
Meanwhile, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said the government was aiming to vaccinate maximum number of people before Eidul Azha to avoid imposing lockdown.
According to an official statement, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet was specially called to provide technical supplementary grant of $130 million (Rs20 billion) to the National Disaster Management Fund to ensure timely procurement of vaccines for effective national response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The funds will be utilised for the procurement of 10m doses during June.
The decision was taken at a hurriedly-called single point ECC meeting presided over by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and attended by three, out of 14, other members.
The meeting decided to review the need for additional funds during the new financial year and make further allocations if required in the budget.
The administration of vaccine will be the responsibility of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) and provincial health departments.
The meeting was told that Pakistan was currently managing the third wave of Covid-19, which was more challenging than the previous waves, whereas the situation in neighbouring countries, particularly in India, was alarming where the average death rate exceeded 3,500 per day.
Besides, since the arrival of vaccines, most governments were primarily focusing on vaccinating their population as the principal instrument of their preventive strategy against the pandemic.
The NHS ministry was initially made responsible to procure vaccine for which it was allocated $150 million, and which had already been expended and committed on account of finalised contracts for purchasing the vaccine.
However, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Covid-19 led by Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 23, 2021 assigned the responsibility of vaccine procurement to the NDMA, which had been given the target of arranging doses for a population of 70 million by December 2021.
The ECC was also informed that the NDMA had established a Vaccine Procurement Cell to purchase the vaccine from international market and governments.
The authority would procure the vaccine and hand over the consignments to the NHS ministry at airports or ports for further handling, storage, transportation and delivery in various parts of the country.
The meeting also advised the NDMA to explore the possibility of purchasing vaccine from external financial resources through the Economic Affairs Division. The option to reimburse the expenditure related to procurement of doses through development partners may also be explored.
On the other hand, the decision to start vaccination of people over 18 years was announced by Asad Umar.
In a tweet, Mr Umar, who also heads the NCOC, said: “In today’s NCOC meeting it was decided to start scheduling vaccination of registered 18 plus from Thursday the 3rd of June. With this step the vaccination of all eligible age groups would be carried out. Please register as soon as possible.”
Almost 100 per cent of the population that can be inoculated has become eligible to receive the vaccine as a result of this decision and 39 million people in the age bracket of 18 to 30 years will benefit.
An NHS ministry official, who is not authorised to speak to media, said the number of people over 50 years of age was 27 million, around 12 million fell in the age bracket of 40 to 50 years while 22 million people were in the age group of 30 to 40 years.
The official said though 100pc population eligible for vaccination would be able to get the jabs from June 3, so far less than five million people had been partially or fully vaccinated.
“People should get inoculated at the earliest as the government has been using all possible resources to ensure uninterrupted supply of the vaccine,” he said.
On the other hand, the NCOC data reported 2,117 new cases and 43 deaths in the last 24 hours, with the positivity ratio recorded at 4.05pc.
As many as 448 patients were on ventilators while the number of active cases was 59,033. Besides, 4,280 patients were being treated in hospitals across the country.
Meanwhile, Asad Umar said lockdowns were no more solution to contain the virus.
Briefing media after attending the meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC), the minister said vaccination was the only way the pandemic could be tackled, which was why the government had decided to run a massive drive to achieve the target of inoculating 70 million people, adds APP.
Mr Umar said the NCC meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, endorsed the vaccination drive strategy prepared by the NCOC.
“We want to administer vaccines to a maximum number of people in June and July before Eidul Azha to avoid imposing lockdown during the festival,” the minister said.
He said the forum took some difficult decisions during the last 10 days of Ramazan and Eid but they proved beneficial as the positivity ratio came down from around 11 per cent to 4pc.
However, in Sindh the pandemic was still spreading, he said, adding that Covid-19 had not ended yet and people should still follow SOPs.
The minister said positive results were seen in countries where the rate of vaccination was high, adding that in Pakistan, so far, about 5.3 million people had been inoculated.
He said there was no issue of vaccine availability as the government had already arranged 10 million doses while 10m more would become available in June and another 10m in July.
He said to make the drive successful the government would engage various stakeholders, including media, bar councils, religious scholars and trade bodies.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021